Taoiseach defends Varadkar's attendance at UK music festival

Taoiseach defends Varadkar's attendance at UK music festival

Leo Varadkar was pictured at the Mighty Hoopla festival in London Picture: Oonagh Murphy/Twitter

Tanáiste Leo Varadkar is “entitled” to his private time and what he chooses to do with it "is a matter for him", the Taoiseach has said.

Micheál Martin made the comments after a photograph emerged showing Mr Varadkar at the Mighty Hoopla music festival in London on Saturday.

The picture was taken just days after the Tánaiste himself attended a meeting with members of the live entertainment and music industry in Ireland who had pushed for similar events to be allowed to take place here.

At that meeting, Mr Varadkar said Britain was "not an example to follow" when it came to reopening. 

The Fine Gael leader is yet to comment publicly on the matter but in a statement, a spokesperson for the Tánaiste said he is "one of the strongest supporters of the events industry in Government."

“He supported Electric Picnic going ahead and helped secure the reopening plan for concerts and other big events beginning on Monday with capacity limits and vaccination certificate moving to full capacity next month," she added. 

A spokeswoman for the Tánaiste said he supported Electric Picnic going ahead this year
A spokeswoman for the Tánaiste said he supported Electric Picnic going ahead this year

Members of the live entertainment industry have criticised the Tánaiste over his attendance at the festival.

Musician Niall Breslin of The Blizzards said the Tánaiste is entitled to a private life and did not break any guidelines, but he did not show "leadership, solidarity and empathy to an industry decimated by pandemic" by his attendance at the London festival on Saturday.

Singer Mary Coughlan described the decision of Mr Varadkar to attend the UK music festival as “in very poor taste."

Speaking to RTÉ Radio's  Today with Claire Byrne, she said it seems like "he just doesn't have a clue."

"He should have put more thought and effort into organising outdoor events here," she added. 

Events promoter Justin Green said those in the industry are "extremely disappointed and annoyed."

"Only last week, both An Taoiseach and Tánaiste ignored the direct pleas made on behalf of the 35,000 workers employed in the sector, and their families, to be allowed return to work at 100% capacity events. This refusal was made despite the extensive Covid protocols being proposed, including full vaccination as a pre-requisite to attend any event."

From today, live events in indoor venues are allowed to return at 60% of the venue's capacity if all audience members show proof of immunity either through vaccination or a recent Covid-19 diagnosis. 

But commercial live events need to return at 100% capacity to ensure they are financially viable, Mr Green said. 

The decision to keep the commercial live events sector "effectively shut" by restricting capacity has been made "without providing any proper explanation or any relevant supporting data upon which it is based," he said.

In a statement, the Event Industry Alliance said they were glad to see the Tánaiste "recognises and trusts the safety measures put in place by our UK colleagues" and called on the government to open the industry at 100% capacity without further delay. 

"This is where our focus remains whilst we are mandated for closure or severely restricted operation we still require 100% capacity to be financially viable."

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